Farm Safety Week Day 4 – ‘Safe Transport’

7 July 2016

Farm safety week logo

Day four of Farm Safety Week in UK & Ireland is highlighting the issues surrounding transport and how to prevent transport related accidents on the farm. It also highlights the support available.

Tractors and moving vehicles have claimed the lives of 30 farm workers in the past five years, according to the HSE Health & Safety in Agriculture Report October 2015, and represent one of the biggest dangers on a farm. This was endorsed by the latest HSE statistics announced at the Livestock Event at the NEC yesterday (Wed 5 July), which confirmed it ‘business as usual’ with transport’ related accidents again being the most common cause of deaths on farms (24% of 29 in 2015-16). This pattern was echoed by representatives from the 5 Farm Safety Partnerships and other regulators speaking at the event yesterday. [For further information on the latest HSE Report and discussion held at the Livestock Event on 6 July, see separate RIG News item.]

As with every other day during Farm Safety Week, the Farm Safety Foundation and Farm Safety Partnership in each country in UK and Ireland has featured a different ‘local’ case study.

ATV incidents

Today’s case study being featured in England involved a loaded shotgun which discharged while being carried on an ATV – causing Mark Mather from Northumberland to lose his leg up to the knee.  Mark is now a ‘Farm Safety Ambassador’, keen to highlight the harsh reality of the consequences an accident like his can have – on the individual, their family, and their business. [nb.  If you haven’t read it elsewhere first, the full ‘story’ of Mark’s dreadful incident (sadly, not a work of fiction, nor an episode from a hospital TV series, or even The Archers!) will be featured in the final IOSH RIG news item  covering Emergency Procedures, Lone Working and Management of H&S, to be posted for the weekend. ]

In Wales, the featured incident also involved an ATV – but this time the ‘cause’ was a ewe being carried on an rider’s lap!  This led to the vehicle overturning while travelling along a road last year. Glasnant Morgan, a beef and sheep farmer (and Past NFU Cymru county chairman for Brecon and Radnor) bravely shared the details and consequences of taking a ‘short cut with safety’. The quad bike landed on his chest, crushing him and causing “8 broken ribs, a punctured lung, cracked pelvis and sternum, a broken shoulder blade, 11 days in hospital and being unable to do much for a month!” [For full details of Glasnant’s ‘story’ and comments from Iwan Meirion (past chair of Wales Young Farmers Club (YFC) and current chair of the Wales Farm Safety Partnership), and other examples of case studies featured during this Farm Safety Week, see the Yellow Wellies website and daily ‘blogs’.]

See also HSE’s Make The Promise film about Roger James, who was injured when his ATV overturned on a slope.

Crush protection devices for ATVs?

Two of the 29 fatalities which occurred in agriculture in 2015-16 involved overturned ATVs [see previous RIG News items] and there is increasing awareness and discussion about the use of crush protection devices (CPDs).  CPDs are being promoted - and are even required to be fitted - in some other countries (including Australia, New Zealand, and some States in the USA).  At least one CPD is being marketed in UK and Ireland and many farms and estates have already fitted them.  However, there are diverging views on their effectiveness. IOSH RIG propose to hold a ‘webinar’ to discuss quad bike safety and the potential use of CPDs, following a review of research being carried out for HSE by HSL (and expected to be published soon).

Tractor incident

In Ireland, the featured ‘story’ involved Galway farmer David Tarpey, who described how a casual decision to borrow a tractor from a neighbour left him in a wheelchair and changed his life forever.

David had left his tractor on his main farm 10 miles away and decided to spread fertiliser on a small patch of land close to his house using an old tractor borrowed from a neighbour. This did not have a correctly functioning handbrake and as he dismounted from the tractor to open a gate, it jerked forward resulting in him being stuck by the rear wheel.

He was eventually found by his neighbour lying on the ground unable to move. David suffered a serious spinal injury with the result that his lower body is now completely paralysed.

Further details and the comments of IFA Farm Family Chairperson Maura Canning – who echoed David Tarpey’s advice to “think twice and use a little common sense” when driving a tractor or operating machinery have been reported in the Irish media, but as Maura rather neatly put it: “Unfortunately most farm safety issues are common place but they aren’t common practice and this is why initiatives like Farm Safety Week are so important. Bringing the whole industry together, for even one week each year, to share a common message means that we are doing something to address this poor safety record.”

Dr John McNamara, Health and Safety Specialist with Ireland’s education and advisory body Teagasc (and member of IOSH RIG’s Committee) also recently called  for more vigilance after HSA’s latest fatal accident data revealed that 80% of deaths in the first five months of the year (to the end of May 2016) were associated with farm vehicles and machinery.

As the busy summer work season progresses and the school holidays approach, John said: “Reversing the recent trend of farm deaths, due to ‘knock-downs or being crushed’ by tractors and machinery, will only be achieved by strong farmer vigilance. Farmers should also pay particular attention to parking tractors safely, applying the handbrake and lowering hydraulic equipment, to reduce the safety risk to themselves and others.”

Overhead Power Lines

We should also not forget other transport hazards – not least Overhead Power Lines (OHPLs). A new campaign in Scotland was recently covered in Farmers Weekly on-line (on 22 June) SP Energy Networks has teamed up with NFU Scotland and Police Scotland to raise awareness of the hazards of working close to electricity on farmland. Apparently, in the past year alone, there were 730 incidents on farmland involving electricity across central and southern Scotland, an increase of almost 40% on the previous year. Such incidents cause significant disruption, but any one of them could have been fatal.

Worryingly, 88% of Scottish young farmers were aware of what the “Danger of Death” sign stands for, 49% were still not sure what to do in the event of a fallen power line - according to a survey carried out by the electricity distributor in association with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers.

SP Energy Networks ran a series of pyrotechnic demonstrations at the Royal Highland Show (23 to 26 June) showing the devastating effects and potentially life-threatening consequences of a cable strike, eg when machinery collides with an overhead power line. As Guy Jefferson, director at SP Energy Networks, pointed out: “With the increasing height of modern farm machinery, the risk of contacting a power line is more likely now than ever before.”

During Farm Safety Week UK Power Networks also announced their campaign which involves visiting a number of country shows and agricultural events throughout the year. The press notice included simple tips and UKPN have published detailed guidance for farm workers on how to stay safe near overhead power lines in the form of a leaflet which is downloadable from the UK Power Networks website.

[Case studies and simplified guidance on avoiding contact with OHPLs and emergency procedures, is given in the Farm Safety Partnership’s “Safety Focus on Electricity” leaflet,] and ENA’s leaflet “Safety Information for Farmers & Agricultural Contractors” ] . Further information is available on the regulators’ websites, eg HSE.

‘Challenge, prevent and stop unsafe habits’

Speaking at The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) panel discussion on the second day of the Livestock Event at the NEC, Ed Ford, Vice Chair of Council, National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (NFYFC) said: “Farm Safety is something that both NFYFC and I am particularly keen to pioneer. Farming has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland. A lack of knowledge of safety regulations and personal safety practices at all experience levels puts farm workers at serious risk of debilitating injury or worse. By increasing our knowledge and awareness of safety in all aspects of agriculture, we can begin to challenge, prevent and stop unsafe habits and practices, while giving farmers of all ages a sense of independence and control over their own personal safety.”

“Farms have always been hard, physically demanding workplaces, but despite the advances in technology and safety, many farmers are under financial pressure and just don’t have the money to invest in the latest technology. Farmers are often using older machinery and although technology is advancing, it is still not driving accidents down.”

Another speaker in the panel discussion, IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy was keen to point out the obvious benefits of farm safety education: “A lack of knowledge of safety regulations and personal safety practices at all experience levels puts farm workers at serious risk of debilitating injury or worse. By increasing farmers knowledge and awareness of safety in all aspects of agriculture, they can begin to challenge, prevent and stop unsafe habits and practices.”

These cases and comments all highlight why this year Farm Safety Week is urging farmers to consider “Who would fill your Boots?” if they were to be affected by a serious injury. If you know anyone who has suffered an accident and would be willing to become a ‘Farm Safety Ambassador’, please contact the FSP eg via the ‘Your Stories’ page.

Today’s Top Tips highlights

  • “Safe Stop”
  • “Safe Vehicle, Safe Site, Safe Driver”
  • “Safe on-road/Safe off-road” 

Why not use today’s ‘poster’ as the basis of a tool box talk as a regular reminder to save lives…..

…And don’t forget to keep #FarmSafetyWeek trending!